Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Lessons of an Independent Author: Bookstore Signings

[caption id="attachment_8951" align="aligncenter" width="300"]At the beginning of my signing. At the beginning of my signing.[/caption]

I suppose the people with the big names and the big contracts get to have the dream signings at a bookstore. You know, the ones you see in the movies, where people gather around wine and discussion all because of one author. Perhaps it is a reading as well, but the author is treated as royalty and fans swarm around in the hopes that some of the genius will rub off. If you've ever seen the film CROSSING DELANCEY (1988) you know what I mean. (Although, I admit that the events are a little snooty and over the top).

I don't think that happens as much in the current world of books.

I have now experienced two signings at stores, and I've learned a lot. One was a group signing where there was wine (provided by the authors) and food (provided by the authors). One was me, myself, and I alone at a table in the middle of a store on a Sunday afternoon.

Now please don't read this as dissing either of the venues.In the end, both events were fun and valuable, and the people were very nice. However, as an independent author there are some things to be prepared for when the opportunity comes along for a book store signing:
  • Most of the publicity is up to you. For the group signing event, the bookstore did some (including posting it on their website, publishing it in their newsletter, and having a sign at the store) and a few of the other authors did some, but many of them thanked me for mastering the art of social media. I laughed. For my single author event, the only publicity from the store was on their website. Supposedly there were supposed to be signs in the store itself, but they did not exist. They did make announcements over the loudspeaker while I was there.
[caption id="attachment_8958" align="aligncenter" width="528"]Friends old and new Friends old and new who remembered because of Facebook.[/caption]

  • Facebook Events is Your Friend. Of course, this only works if your followers are also on Facebook, but yesterday I discovered the value of publicizing the event through Facebook. Several of the people who planned on coming almost forgot until they got the friendly reminder from Facebook, and they came. ;)
  • You might be hard to find. Since there were no signs, several people said they took a while to find me. I think next time I'll bring balloons. The good thing, however, was that they positioned me near the café, so at least I got some foot traffic.
  • Practice your elevator pitch. I lost one sale yesterday, to a man who intentionally challenged me. "Tell me what it's about in a nutshell." I did that, but I emphasized the wrong points for this sale and he said "Sounds like a chick book" and walked away. To be fair, my friends watching the transaction were convinced he wouldn't have bought no matter what, but it taught me that I need to know what I want to say for every different possible reader.
  • Come prepared to decorate.  I brought my own fabulous little poster (designed by my incredible cover artist, Jacqueline Haltom). Since I knew I was being positioned next to the café, I felt strange about bringing baked goods, so I bought some chocolate from the bookstore and gave those away, along with free bookmarks.  I don't know if these touches made a difference, but it looked pretty and colorful and allowed for some discussion points. (Plus the chocolate distracted little ones--with permission of course--while I signed books for mother's).
  • Bring an army, have them wander around the store with your book.  Again, I can't prove this helped, but I don't think it hurt. I sold 13 of the 20 books available, including a few to total strangers.
  • Smile at strangers, and be self-sufficient. Yesterday, I let the store by me some tea. They offered me a pen, but I brought my own. They checked in occasionally, but I didn't ask for anything. I smiled, chatted, said hello. It got back to the manager that it was a pleasure to talk with me. In the end, he invited me to come back whenever I would like.
  • Do not try to keep your book piles even.  The OCD part of me wanted to even out piles as books were disappearing, but my author friend Cameron Garriepy (whose book Damselfly Inn will be available on April 13th) stopped me. "Uneven piles make it look like your book is selling."  Wise words from one of my best supporters, who so far has come to all of my events.
[caption id="attachment_8959" align="aligncenter" width="700"]The end piles Toward the end, my daughter got her hands on the piles and started evening them out.[/caption]
  • Sign leftover books. I signed the remaining seven books, and they were going to be labelled with an autographed copy sticker and featured at the info desk. I'll check in on the pile later in the week and see if they are slowly being sold. Fingers crossed.
My next signing event (which will also involve some talking/workshops) will be at AuthorFest 2015 in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Since this is a book festival, I expect it will be a completely different experience. I'll let you know. But, of course, I'd love to see you there.


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